Archive for the 'Storytelling' Category

Everyone has an important story to tell

Everyone has a story to tell, and, given an opportunity, we all want to tell the important stories of our lives, stories that explain who we are and where we came from, that prove we existed and mattered, that demonstrate our resilience, and that reveal the people and events that affected our lives.

And we can all learn important lessons from one another’s stories.

StoryCorps’ “National Day of Listening” provides an opportunity to evoke those stories.

On the day after Thanksgiving, StoryCorps asks everyone to take a few minutes to record an interview with a family member or friend.

You can use recording equipment that is readily available to you, such as a computer, smart phone, tablet, or other voice or video recorder.

StoryCorps provides a free Do It Yourself Instruction Guide.

The lesson that everyone has an important story to tell has been reinforced time and again for me as a hospice volunteer who has been privileged to record dozens of hospice patients discussing their lives in conversations with family members.

All that is required of us is to extend the invitation and to listen deeply without interruption to those stories.

Once the conversation begins, it’s likely to proceed almost effortlessly, at least in my experience.

Some possible questions include:

• What elders or events influenced the person you’ve become?

• How would you like to be remembered?

• What advice would you like to pass along to your children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, or others in your life?

There’s no gift human beings can give one another that is more important and precious than our undivided attention and genuine interest in the stories we all have to tell.

When that attention promotes storytelling that is preserved with video or voice recordings, it is a gift that benefits future generations for decades to come.

Consider:

How have stories and storytelling shaped your life?

To whom would you like to reach out—an elder, a family member or friend, a veteran, a colleague, or a neighbor, for example—to invite his or her storytelling?

[This post is adapted from one first published at Thanksgiving 2012. I have updated the links.]

What is your story?

For many years I had the privilege of interviewing leading educators regarding their views on various aspects of professional learning for articles that were published in NSDC’s (now Learning Forward) JSD (now The Learning Professional).

They were educators whose ideas have proved resilient over the intervening decades (Michael Fullan and Peter Senge, for example), and the stories they shared, sometimes couched in technical terms, about how individuals learn and organizations change demonstrated the link between resilience, influence, and storytelling.

The stories these “influencers” told often revealed the people, experiences, and values that animated both their personal and professional lives.

Here is such a story from my life:

Early in my teaching career I attended an inspiring and practical 3-day workshop on what was then called “mastery teaching.” My big “take away” was that virtually all students could learn virtually everything I wanted them to know given sufficient time and “correctives,” and that their improved grades would reflect that learning.

Soon after I returned to my school, however, I realized that to implement what I had learned I had to overcome a significant barrier in the form of my principal who believed that good teachers should distribute grades more or less on a normal-distribution curve slightly skewed to the high side to show that we were making a positive difference.

His strongly-held belief posed a problem – how would I give grades that he would accept that would also reflect the higher-levels of learning I anticipated in my classroom?

We met, and he decided to allow an experiment with one of my classes if I brought all student work to him for review for the remainder of the school year. (The experiment concluded at the end of the school year when I moved on to another assignment.)

Over the years I told that story many times to illustrate:

• The power of beliefs to shape professional practice.

• That unless professional development addressed the existing beliefs of teachers and administrators the innovations would flounder and likely fail.

Stories can shape attitudes (often unconsciously), bond groups, teach important lessons, and provide guidance and motivation.

They can be used in:

• classrooms

• faculty meetings

• family gatherings

• with friends

What stories have you used or might you use to teach, guide, or motivate?

Seeing the world through the eyes of others

People act based on the way they see the world. Every single time. Understanding someone else’s story is hard, a job that’s never complete, but it’s worth the effort. —Seth Godin

There is pretty much universal agreement that empathy is a desirable human quality, and it’s an attribute often found in resilient people.

• Empathy is the basis of clear communication. Understanding the view points of others is essential to effective communication in families and work settings.

• Empathy enables us to have deeper and more satisfying relationships. Without it people cannot really understand one another.

• Empathy enriches our lives by opening our minds to the experiences and perspectives of others.

• Empathy decreases the likelihood of unnecessary conflict and even wars.

Given its importance, why is empathy so often difficult to achieve for so many of us?

• We may believe that demonstrating understanding of others’ points of view is the same as agreeing with them.

• We fear that our willingness to fully understand others’ points of view will signal weakness on our part.

• We are aware that empathy opens us to being influenced by others, which, in turn, may create cognitive dissonance that requires us to change our viewpoint and perhaps even our behavior. Put another way, we understand that empathy may be the first step on a slippery slope that will lead us to significant change.

“Tell me a story.”

In my experience the most effective way to see the world through the eyes of others is to invite them to tell us a story about an influential elder, a formative event in their lives, or anything else that seems appropriate.

Better yet, tell others a story from your own life related to the subject at hand and invite them to do the same.

Storytelling is a powerful way to:

• deepen understanding of others’ points of view,

• establish common ground for resolving conflicts and making decisions, and

• strengthen relationships with significant people in our lives.

What practices or tools enable you to create empathy with others?

Create life stories that empower resilience

The realest things in our lives are the stories we invent. We live with these stories, we remind ourselves of them, we perfect them. And, happily, if you don’t like the story you’re telling yourself, you can change it. – Seth Godin

Although our life story is based on actual events, it is also highly personal and subjective. The same life could be narrated many ways…. “Creating any kind of a story is a construction. It’s not just finding something that’s out there,” says Northwestern professor Dan McAdams, a pioneer in the field of narrative psychology. “Selves create stories, which in turn create selves.” —Kira Newman

Human beings use stories to make sense of and explain the world to themselves and others.

Most powerful among those stories are the ones we tell ourselves about our childhoods and significant life experiences.

At best, the stories we tell about the past are a partial truth. (If you are convinced that your truth is “the truth,” share your memories with others at a family event to see if they agree.)

Because we are active creators of our life stories, we can shape those stories in ways that empower or disempower us.

Resilient people create life stories which are both true and that are sources of hope, positive energy, and compassion for themselves and others.

Kira Newman explains it this way:

“Not only do stories tell us who we are, but they can also become resources we draw upon in times of difficulty: Recalling stories of strength or resilience helps us confront new challenges, reminding us of how we solved problems in the past. Telling stories can connect us with others, creating intimacy and strengthening relationships. The best stories provide meaning and purpose by linking seemingly random events and experiences into a progressive journey.”

Such stories, as Kira Newman points out, remind us of our strengths, our capacity to persevere in the face of adversity, and of the connections to others that have sustained us in difficult times.

Most of all, we can create and share stories that remind us of the overarching purpose and meaning of our lives.

Resilient people understand that when their stories no longer serve them, they can create new, kinder, and more empowering narratives to improve the quality of their lives and the lives of others.

While we cannot change the past, we can describe it in ways that help create a better world.

What do you think—can we shape our stories in authentic ways to better serves ourselves and others?

Everyone has an important story to tell

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Everyone has a story to tell, and, given an opportunity, we all want to tell the important stories of our lives— stories that explain who we are and where we came from, stories that prove we existed and mattered, stories about the people and events that affected our lives. And we can all learn from one another’s stories.

There is no day more appropriate to invite that storytelling than today, which is the 5th anniversary of the “National Day of Listening.”

“On the day after Thanksgiving, StoryCorps asks everyone to take a few minutes to record an interview with a loved one,” the web site of the National Day of Listening recommends.

“You can use recording equipment that is readily available to you, such as computers, iPhones, and tape recorders, along with StoryCorps’ free Do It-Yourself Instruction Guide.”

The lesson that everyone has an important story to tell has been reinforced time and again for me as a hospice volunteer who is privileged to videotape hospice patients talking about their lives in conversation with family members.

All that is required of us is to extend the invitation and to listen deeply without interruption to those stories. Once the conversation begins, it’s likely to proceed almost effortlessly, at least in my experience.

Some possible questions include:
• What elders or events influenced the person you’ve become?
• How would you like to be remembered?
• What advice would you like to pass along to your children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, or others in your life?

There’s no gift more important and precious that human beings can give one another than our undivided attention and genuine interest in the stories we all have to tell. When that attention promotes storytelling across generations, it is a gift that benefits its recipients for decades to come, particularly when those stories are preserved on video or with voice recordings.

What’s on your mind?
• How have stories and storytelling shaped your life?
• To whom would you like to reach out—an elder, a family member or friend, a veteran or active duty military (a special StoryCorps focus this year), a colleague, or a neighbor, for example—to invite his or her storytelling?

[While this post was first published at Thanksgiving 2012, its content is as important and relevant today as it did then. I have updated the links.]

Everyone has an important story to tell

Everyone has a story to tell, and, given an opportunity, we all want to tell the important stories of our lives— stories that explain who we are and where we came from, stories that prove we existed and mattered, stories about the people and events that affected our lives. And we can all learn from one another’s stories.

There is no day more appropriate to invite that storytelling than today, which is the 5th anniversary of the “National Day of Listening.”

“On the day after Thanksgiving, StoryCorps asks everyone to take a few minutes to record an interview with a loved one,” the web site of the National Day of Listening recommends.

“You can use recording equipment that is readily available to you, such as computers, iPhones, and tape recorders, along with StoryCorps’ free Do It-Yourself Instruction Guide.”

The lesson that everyone has an important story to tell has been reinforced time and again for me as a hospice volunteer who is privileged to videotape hospice patients talking about their lives in conversation with family members.

All that is required of us is to extend the invitation and to listen deeply without interruption to those stories. Once the conversation begins, it’s likely to proceed almost effortlessly, at least in my experience.

Some possible questions include:

  • What elders or events influenced the person you’ve become?
  • How would you like to be remembered?
  • What advice would you like to pass along to your children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, or others in your life?

There’s no gift more important and precious that human beings can give one another than our undivided attention and genuine interest in the stories we all have to tell. When that attention promotes storytelling across generations, it is a gift that benefits its recipients for decades to come, particularly when those stories are preserved on video or with voice recordings.

What’s on your mind?

• How have stories and storytelling shaped your life?

• To whom would you like to reach out—an elder, a family member or friend, a veteran or active duty military (a special StoryCorps focus this year), a colleague, or a neighbor, for example—to invite his or her storytelling?

[While this post was first published at Thanksgiving 2012, its content is as important and relevant today as it was then. I have updated the links.]

Open minds by touching hearts

Dennis

Minds are very hard things to open, and the best way to open the mind is through the heart. —Jonathan Haidt

Leaders extend their influence when they speak to the heart as well as the head.

Human beings are motivated at least as much by their emotions as they are by logic and rationality. While research, data, and other forms of evidence have their place in improvement efforts, by themselves they are insufficient.

Emotions elicited through storytelling, poetry, and the use of imagery can inspire and provide a context for the meaningful use of data and professional literature.

Today I will speak to the heart as well as the head in an upcoming interaction with colleagues, students, or parents.

[This “meditation” is one of 180 (one for every day of the traditional school year) provided in Leadership 180: Daily Meditations on School Leadership, my most recent book, published by Solution Tree.]


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